During high school I became an instructor at Ski Acres (now Summit Central). I was PSIA certified in 1973 and competed in local freestyle skiing contests with my high school buddies, the Bonanza Bombers. In 1975, when I was living in Sun Valley, my friends set a Guinness world record at Ski Acres by performing a 16-man, hand-holding backflip on skis. A Warren Miller cameraman filmed the stunt. Most of my friends were avid freestyle skiers, but few of us competed seriously. My brother Gordy, on the other hand, was a nationally ranked competitor in the 1970s. I spent two winters teaching and ski bumming at Sun Valley during college. I eventually drifted away from ski instructing as my skiing interests turned elsewhere.
Career and Family
In December 1978, I graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering (Summa Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa). I went to work for John Fluke Manufacturing Co., Inc. (now Fluke Corporation) in 1979 and spent sixteen years there. I began my career at Fluke as an electrical design engineer but eventually moved into software development.
I met Stephanie Subak at Fluke and we were married in 1983. Our son Tom was born in 1996. Steph died tragically in a mountaineering accident in 2015. Memories from the celebration of her life can be found here.
In 1995, I left Fluke to become the editor of a regional outdoor magazine. While I have enjoyed outdoor writing and photography for years, I soon realized that outdoor publishing as a career was not for me. I returned to engineering, spending five years at WRQ, Inc., a Seattle software firm. From 2001 through 2010, I was a software development consultant, alternately working on engineering contracts and outdoor writing projects (such as the Northwest Mountaineering Journal). From 2011 to 2015, I worked full-time as a software engineer for Carbon Design Group in Seattle.
While in college, I was introduced to climbing by my brother Gordy and a few of his skiing friends. Our group was mostly self-taught, and we were fortunate to avoid mishaps during our first few years as climbers. Our most memorable early trip was a one-week traverse of the northern Picket Range in the Cascades in 1974. I climbed in a pair of fifteen-dollar Valu-Mart waffle stompers and slept in a homemade plastic tube tent. For a glacier rope, we carried a length of polypropylene line that Gordy had found at the Alpental ski area. Thanks (I guess) to mountain sense gained through skiing and backpacking, we completed the trip without incident.
As we became more experienced, we extended our climbing ventures throughout the Cascade Range. With partners like Mark Bebie, Gary Brill, my older brother Gordy and my younger brother Carl, I pioneered new routes on peaks such as Mesahchie (1978), Early Morning Spire (1980), Perdition (1985, with Steph), The Pyramid (1986), Forbidden (1989), Inspiration (1995), and Thunder (1998). We also made first winter ascents of Bonanza (1979), Formidable (1981), Mt Shuksan's Price Glacier (1981), and Mounts Triumph and Despair (1986). Although I have climbed throughout the western U.S. and Canada and traveled to the Alps, Andes and Himalaya, my backyard mountains in Washington remain my favorites.
In 1979, Gary Brill enticed me to take up ski touring by giving me an old pair of strap-on climbing skins. I invested in a pair of Ramer bindings and mounted them on a used pair of K2 skis from Gordy. (I was a cheapskate.) After modifying the toe wires to fit my climbing boots, I had a serviceable setup for ski mountaineering.
During the next few years we added skiing to our climbing trips on peaks such as Silver Star, Glacier, Baker and Bonanza. In 1982, with Gary Brill and two others, I made the second ski crossing of the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades. The Ptarmigan trip made a strong impression on me. I was captivated by using skis to venture into deep wilderness. Ski mountaineering seemed to combine the best of mountaineering and skiing, two sports I already loved by themselves.
With a small group of friends, but especially Jens Kieler and
my brother Carl,
I pioneered several hundred miles of high-level ski traverses in
the North Cascades. These included the Isolation Traverse
(Snowfield to Eldorado, 1983), Picket Range (1985), Thunder High
Route (Rainy Pass to Eldorado, 1987), Buckindy Range (1989),
Suiattle High Route (Miners Ridge to Glacier Peak, 1989),
Backbone Ridge (1990), Ragged Ridge (1991), and Extended
Ptarmigan Traverse (Cascade Pass to Holden, 2000). We also made
pioneering ski descents on peaks such as Logan (1982), Fury
(1985), Buckner (1999), Hurry Up (2002), Forbidden (2003) and
Sinister (2005). After Carl died in a ski mountaineering
accident, I resolved to complete a
ski traverse of the Cascade Crest
in his memory (2007).
In 1991, at a time when my enthusiasm for backcountry skiing was diverted by the demands of work and family (and a shortage of partners to ski with) I took up paragliding. I participated in this sport for a decade, during which I continued to climb and ski, but with less singular focus. I eventually quit flying as other interests drew me away from the sport.
In 2017, I became reacquainted with Nancy Mattheiss, a Seattle neighbor with whom I had several mutual friends. Our relationship blossomed over the next few years and we were married in February 2021.
In the year 2000, I began researching the
of human-powered skiing in the Northwest with the goal of
publishing the definitive book on the subject. After twenty
years and thousands of hours of work on this project, I was
finally able to interest a publisher in the book thanks to the
explosive growth in backcountry skiing.
Written in the Snows: Across Time on Skis in the Pacific Northwest was released by The Mountaineers Books in October 2021. This project repays a debt — to my father and to others of his generation — for passing on to me a legacy of wilderness and wonder in one of the most beautiful regions in America.